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Trump's Health Care Ultimatum; Two "Significant" Arrests in London Attack; Xavier Stays Alive. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired March 24, 2017 - 05:00   ET


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: The ultimatum from President Trump: get the health care deal done today. The president tells House Republicans he'll move on if they don't vote. Will the ways of Washington grind the deal-making president to a halt?

EARLY START has live team coverage right now of this important story.

Good morning. Welcome to EARLY START, everyone. I'm Christine Romans.

DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Dave Briggs on a busy Friday. Friday, march 24th, 5:00 a.m. in the East.

The political version of win or go home. President Trump laying down an ultimatum to House Republicans: talks are over, vote on the health care bill today and pass it, or you will be stuck with Obamacare and be forced to explain why you didn't vote to repeal it.

[05:00:04] All this after leaders postponed votes scheduled for Thursday when it became clear it just did not have the votes. Both the White House and House leaders said to be frustrated with the ultra conservative Freedom Caucus after both spent the day trying to, quote, "grind" them down apparently to no avail.

ROMANS: Now, a familiar trend emerging with the White House laying the ground work to place the blame on others if the bill fails.

A Republican source says Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows told his members to vote their conscience.


REP. MARK MEADOWS (R-NC), CHAIRMAN, HOUSE FREEDOM CAUCUS: Realistically, I'm still optimistic. I don't put grades or numbers on anything. I know that would make for a better headline. But I'm still optimistic that everybody is negotiating in good faith to try to get there.


BRIGGS: So, the vote just hours away. Big questions. Will the president's ultimatum force the Freedom Caucus to fall in line? Will the president really reject a vote later if the Republicans can't round up the votes today and what might be the fallout if this dealmaker president can't close the deal?

Our coverage begins this morning with CNN's Suzanne Malveaux live on Capitol Hill.

Good morning to you. Thanks for being up early for us.

What do we expect today?

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Dave and Christine.

Well, everybody is expecting an early start this morning because what we're going to see is that this bill is going to go to the House Rules Committee as early as 7:00 this morning. That is where the debate will start. We expect it will last three hours before they vote, around 10:00.

And then it will go to the full house. We expect the voting will start -- the debate will start probably about lunchtime and wrap up by dinner time. We'll see what comes of all this.

But the stakes could not be higher for the president and for the Republican Party to push forward the signature legislation. Republicans have been fighting to repeal and replace Obamacare for the last seven years. This is a critical test for the party and the president.

Now, it was very clear that the president was tired of negotiations, that this was it. He issued his ultimatum last night through a series of aides who were here on Capitol Hill. We saw Reince Priebus as well as Steve Bannon, Kellyanne Conway.

It was the director of OMB, Mulvaney, who delivered the message directly to the Republican caucus, saying that now is the time. They had stopped negotiating. They offered various concessions to the conservative Freedom Caucus group, alienating many of the moderate Republicans. Now they say this is the moment to show if you are loyal to the president and loyal to the party and its policy.

But it is a very divided party. We saw House Speaker Paul Ryan emerging from this caucus late yesterday, really seeming like he could not call either way whether or not this would pass. Take a listen.


REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: We have been promising the American people we will repeal and replace this broken law because it is collapsing and it's failing families. And tomorrow, we're proceeding.


MALVEAUX: There is bad news from the Congressional Budget Office as well. This was delivered yesterday. This bill has gone through various amendments and the last amendment that the CBO actually saw, they determined that the federal deficit would be cut by $150 billion over the course of ten years. That is much less than the estimate that was before the original bill which was $337 billion cut. And the figure remained the same about 24 million people estimated that would be uninsured over ten years under the Republican plan.

Finally, the bill, as you know, needs 216 in the House to pass. By our latest whip count, CNN count, Republicans cannot lose more than 21 votes. Republican votes. Right now, we have 31 who are voting against it or leaning against it.

So, it does not look good at this moment. But anything can change. Anything can happen. This is a moving target, if you will, starting at 7:00, just a couple of hours.

ROMANS: All right. It's going to be a busy day for you, Suzanne Malveaux, on Capitol Hill. Thanks for getting up early for us, Suzanne.

Let's bring in our panel now. CNN politics reporter Eugene Scott with us here in New York and in Washington, political economist, Greg Valliere, chief strategist for Horizon Investments.

Greg, you just heard Suzanne's fantastic report here. You saw that gallery of pictures of the leaning no. What would it take to pull this off?

GREG VALLEIRE, POLITICAL ECONOMIST: Well, they could I suppose, as Suzanne suggested, come up with some last minute deal. They could say, look, let's give this another few days, let's give this another week or so, let's fine-tune it. I can't believe they will say it is totally dead. I think they will have a flicker existing for a while longer.

BRIGGS: So, with most presidents, you can look at what they did in Congress, perhaps what they did as a governor. With Donald Trump, we have the book "Art of the Deal" and we have this Twitter feed.

So, there was a 2011 tweet. Some say might reveal what he plans to do this. We can show you that tweet. What he said he quoted, of course, this is where the two combine. "The Art of the Deal" and his Twitter feed. Know when to walk away from the table.

Is that what he is doing here, Eugene, walking away?

EUGENE SCOTT, CNN POLITICS REPORTER: Well, it certainly seems like it. I mean, based on our reporting from last night, he said that he felt like he made every concession he could make. Whether or not that's actually true, I mean, anything could happen between now and 7:00 p.m. that he thinks of.

But what he can come up with that won't hurt more moderate Republicans, that will please the more conservative Republicans is not really clear. I think what's a very fascinating point we've got to remember, we think about these, about 31 or so who are no or leaning no. There are nearly 250 Republicans in the House right now. ROMANS: Yes.

SCOTT: And they hold this much power. So is he going to win them without losing others by 7:00 p.m.?

ROMANS: We are so into the nitty-gritty of what this vote looks like and the politics of this, you guys. But what I hear from people. This is kitchen table economics. What happens here will change how much money people have in their bank accounts. There is nothing more fundamental than health care.

And when you look at this Quinnipiac poll on health care, you can see how unpopular this health care bill is. People are worried, even if they don't like Obamacare, they are worried this is worse for them. They see the reporting we do, this shows that if you are a poor American, if you are a Trump supporter, rural, older American of modest means, you're going to pay more for health care, Eugene.

So, I mean, I think the bottom line is here is did they not come up with a plan that really does what they promised on the campaign trail, was to make a good health care plan?

SCOTT: Yes, but if you look at the trail and the promises that the president made. He never really promised specifics. He just said, I'm going to repeal it, I'm going to repeal on day one. And he's dropped the ball there.

But I think once you spend time looking at voters who hoped he would have come up with something clear, they weren't really clear what he was going to present. They just thought it would be better.

And the reality is, we have some Republican lawmakers that are saying, maybe even the Obamacare was better than this. So, I think there are some details that people were hoping to get that they just did not.

BRIGGS: Well, Greg, let's talk about Obamacare. Republicans made the argument that it is in a death spiral. If they do nothing, it will collapse on its own. What about the American people here? What happens if this bill fails? What happens to Obamacare and this country's health care?

VALLIERE: Well, Dave, I don't want to get on a soap box this early, but I will say this. For the American people who wants bipartisanship, who want to see things get done, there is another alternative. And that is for the Republicans to go to Democrats and say, let's fix Obamacare.

The problem, though, is that both parties are so rigid and inflexible. And now, you see the Democrats last night say, we're going to filibuster a Supreme Court nominee who looks pretty qualified to me. So, the partisanship is strong that any desire to really fix Obamacare, I think, is unlikely to occur.

ROMANS: Greg, the whole talking point that it's going to collapse on its own weight, I think -- when I talk to economists, they say Obamacare survives and limps along with flaws that are not fatal, but are unfortunate for American families. It could be fixed.

VALLIERE: Absolutely. I think it may just limp along.

The messaging here is terrible. The messaging from both parties scares people -- people who have medical conditions that need to be addressed. I don't think anything in the next few days is going to alleviate that public anxiety.

BRIGGS: Before we rule President Trump out, Eugene, let's talk about he proved everyone wrong time and time again, from 1 percent, he is now in the Oval Office.

There is also that aspect of last night 30 lawmakers standing up and pleading with fellow lawmakers. Sign this bill. Come aboard. Only one, Louie Gohmert spoke out against it. One of the people who spoke out in favor, lost two legs on the battlefield in Afghanistan.

How compelling may that argument be in those final few moments?

SCOTT: I don't think it is impossible to think that somebody like this could happen. We just haven't seen it happen before in the history of the presidency. And so, is there hope? I think the White House is certainly hoping and can come up with a message.

It just looks a lot of people, the majority of people that have already say no just haven't been budging.

ROMANS: I want to show you the tweet from Pike Pence showing people making decisions about health, about women's health in particular. "Appreciate joining POTUS for meeting with the Freedom Caucus today. This is it. Pass the bill."

BRIGGS: That's not a good look.

ROMANS: Plenty of people who -- and then you add Pat Roberts with a flippant remark about mammograms. I would not want to lose my mammogram. He was being ironic and had to walk that back. There's -- and I was hearing -- you know, the mom tax, people talking about the mom tax, the idea that women were somehow a burden on the rest of the society because of -- including preventive health care for women.

[05:10:05] Whoa, Greg, that's not -- they don't want to be going down that path, I don't think.

VALLIERE: No, the optics are terrible. But I would make this quick point: I think if Trump loses today or loses in the next few days, it's still premature to write obituary about tax reform. I think he's going to win on Gorsuch. There will be some victories.

But, unquestionably, if he loses today, that's not a good story for the markets.

ROMANS: Greg, I'm so glad we got you here. Thanks you so much because I'm talking about tax reform right now.

BRIGGS: It gives you segue. That's what he does. ROMANS: We worked together for years. I love that. Thanks, Greg.

Today's vote on health care could have implication for tax reform. It's the Trump administration's next priority and biggest prize for the stock market. If all goes well and health care passes, it will likely help the president's chances at scoring tax cuts and it will also be easier for Paul Ryan because saving money there will help pay for cutting taxes.

But if the bill fails, one former senior budget office staffer tells us it could derail Trump's entire economic agenda or at least stall. Another says it actually may motivate Republicans to move quickly and come to terms on tax returns. So, unclear, right, how that could be played.

Regardless, since the election, the stock market is pricing in the best-case scenario that pushed stocks to record highs. The past few days, we have seen the rally pause as the uncertainty here on the Washington agenda has investors on edge.

There are -- CEOs have been telling me, Washington should not hold Donald Trump back. Don't let Washington hold back Donald Trump. Maybe he will move right unto the next thing if this thing doesn't work.

BRIGGS: We have so many questions.

ROMANS: I know.

BRIGGS: Really, we don't know much until 7:00 tonight. But it should be fascinating.

Meanwhile, the death roll rising following the terror attack in London, including an American celebrating his anniversary. We are live in London with more on what we're learning about the attacker.


[05:15:57] ROMANS: Fifteen minutes past the hour.

New this morning, two significant arrests in the London terror attack. It comes after another victim of the attack passed away, bringing the death toll now to four. Among them, an American from Utah celebrating his 25th wedding anniversary with his wife. She was injured.

We are learning new details about the attacker who authorities say was known to police and inspired by ISIS.

I want to go live to New Scotland Yard in London and bring in CNN's Nina Dos Santos.

We are just getting new information about who did this. What can you tell us?

NINA DOS SANTOS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. And indeed, his name as well. His original birth name is Adrian Russell Ajao. He was born in the southeast, but he seemed to spend sometime living in the midlands, in the city of Birmingham, which is where many of these raids were taking place over the last couple of days, Christine. And we now know that two significant arrests have been made overnight. That brings the total number of people currently held unto custody, many of them under the terrorist act to nine in total.

And the metropolitan police has said what's really going to be crucial to this investigation is to find out how this Muslim convert became radicalized. What was his journey there? Who was part of the journey along the way? Who did he interact with?

Those are the questions they're going to be asking. They already conducted 16 searches across various addresses. There are still five raids that are ongoing. They managed to recover huge amounts of information, 2,700 items have been recovered in these raids. A large portion of that is computer related data material. That just goes to show cyber investigations are so much part of terrorist investigations these days.

In the meantime, I also want to point out that the number of victims has sadly risen to four in total. A local man from south London, 75 years old passed away in hospital after injuries he sustained overnight.

And as you pointed out, there is also an American citizen, 54-year-old Kurt Cochran from Utah. Sadly, he lost his life when he was celebrating his wedding an anniversary with his wife. She was injured, but not serious enough to lose her life.

Back to you, Christine.

ROMANS: All right, Nina Dos Santos.

And I think it's really important to keep focus on the victims here as we learn more about the attacker. Our thoughts and prayers with all of their families here, you know, people who are just enjoying an international city, people who were -- thanks, Nina -- people who were, you know, travelers from around the world.

BRIGGS: One of the great cities in the world.

We're going to turn to sports. Eleventh seeded Xavier still dancing after a comeback for the ages.

Andy Scholes with the closest thing we have to a Cinderella story this year in this morning's "Bleacher Report".


[05:23:09] BRIGGS: Did you, folks, have Xavier in your elite eight? You probably did. Romans is crushing it. I highly doubt it. I did not.

The Musketeers are moving on.

ROMANS: Andy Scholes has more on this morning's "Bleacher Report". Hey, Andy.


You know, I can officially tear up my bracket this morning. I had Arizona winning it all. They're out now at the hands of the low seed remaining in the tournament. That would be Xavier.

I'll tell you what, Bill Murray is on a heck of a sports run. Cubs win the World Series. His son is an assistant for Xavier is on the way to the elite eight.

Now, Arizona would miss and the Musketeers running out the clock. Look at the bench. It goes absolutely nuts.

You have to watch this in slow motion replay. We highlighted these two. They were so excited. They could not execute a chest bump. Xavier moves on with 73-71 win.

They will now play Gonzaga. Zags playing a thriller with West Virginia. Matthews with the three right here to give the Zags the lead.

Watch this. Devin Carter tries to go hero ball for West Virginia. He dribbles around forever. Mountaineers ending up miss three ever shots. The Zags win 61-58. They are one win away from their first trip to the final four.

But head coach Mark Few says he's not worried about getting the monkey off his back.


MARK FEW, GONZAGA HEAD COACH: I don't know I have a monkey on my back. I don't wake up with one or walk around with one. I don't think these guys think I have one. I don't think my wife thinks I have one or anybody in my family. So, close friends, fishing buddies never talked about it. It is not about monkeys or my dog or cats. It's about them.


[05:25:00] SCHOLES: All right. Magical run for Michigan has come to an end. Wolverines had won seven in a row since the plane skidded off the runway two weeks ago. They missed a three at the buzzer that would have won the game. Oregon now on to the elite eight with the 69-68 win.

The action continues tonight a little after 7:00 Eastern. Vice President Mike Pence would be on hand in Memphis to watch Butler take on North Carolina. Pence's wife Karen went to Butler.

Now, the late game, you got UCLA taking on Kentucky, and Wisconsin playing Florida. You can watch that on TBS.

Like you said, Dave, Romans is killing us in the brackets. We have no chance. She is looking good. BRIGGS: Scholes, Coy Wire and myself spent a lifetime in and around

sports. We're all out.

ROMANS: Sometimes if you know too much, it's a disadvantage. That's what I got to say.

All right. Thanks, guys.

BRIGGS: Thanks, buddy.

ROMANS: Will President Trump's deal-making skilling work in Washington? We find out today, thanks to his ultimatum demanding a House vote on health care. We are live in Washington with all of the breaking developments.